Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Life is Rosy: Hardy & Fragrant

Posted in Gardens and Collections on June 18 2013, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is the NYBG‘s Gardener for Public Education.

'Francis Meilland'
‘Francis Meilland®’

Last week, I was out in the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden with Ken Molinari, our Rose Garden Foreman, where he told me that we’re using a lot of foliar feeds this year. With so many roses—over 680 varieties and more than 4,400 roses—we have to fill up a large 100-gallon tank and go down on Mondays, when the Garden is closed, to spray the organic fertilizer on the roses. But it’s not solely out of convenience that we time this application for a day when the Garden is closed to the public; many of the fertilizers that we use are fish-based, and only a cat would be happy with the scent.

We have been using a blend of a number of products, including Organic Gem® liquid fish fertilizer, Monty’s® Liquid Plant Food (otherwise known as Monty’s Joy Juice), and Dyna-Gro Pro-Tekt®. The latter is a silicon solution which supplies potassium and silicon to help the rose build stronger cell walls, which in turn helps protect it from black spot and piercing insects. Add all of these ingredients together and you have a recipe for healthy roses that are better able to defend themselves from pests, diseases, and environmental stress.

While Ken and I were down in the Rose Garden, we stuck our noses in the roses to test for fragrance. We came up with a short and by no means comprehensive list of a few roses in the garden that had a particularly nice aroma.


Some of the heady fragrances included ‘Memorial Day™’ (classic rose fragrance), ‘Beverly™’ (citrus rose fragrance), ‘Bolero™’ (sugary rose), ‘Quietness’ (baby powder rose fragrance), ‘Marchesa Boccella’ (classic rose fragrance), ‘Francis Meilland®’ (complex, powdery citrus rose) and ‘Postillion®’ (heavy baby powder rose). Some of the milder fragrances were ‘Julia Child™’ (spicy), ‘Thanksgiving™’ (fruity) and ‘Purple Rain™’.

A few years ago, I was in the Rose Garden teaching when I cut just one stem from a ‘Memorial Day™’ plant. ‘Memorial Day™’ is a nice lavender-pink hybrid tea rose with surprisingly few thorns on it, one which I used to demonstrate how to cut roses for displays. I stuck the rose in my water bottle and brought it up to my office, where it spent the next few days flooding my small office with perfume. I received compliments from every visitor that entered the space.

Ken Molinari, Rose Garden Foreman
Ken Molinari, Rose Garden Foreman

If you’re looking for a rose to knock your socks off, then ‘Postillion®’ is one of my top recommendations. I wrote about this rose last week. I also cut a stem of this shrub rose for a recent arrangement. The fragrance was too strong for some and just right for others. When Ken and I were working adjacent to ‘Postillion®’ in the garden, it was impossible to escape its perfume, and made all of the other roses around it “look good.”

Fragrance aside, some of Ken’s favorite roses include one of his long standing loves, ‘Larissa™’—a shrub rose that covers itself with small, medium-pink flowers and opens slightly later than most of the roses in the garden. Ken is a man of good taste, of course, and ‘Mother of Pearl®’ is more evidence of this—it has no fragrance, but is an extraordinarily beautiful peachy-pink grandiflora.


‘Thanksgiving™’ and ‘Sally Holmes’ (a stunning white climber with dogwood-like flowers) were two of his other choices. Whether you are in the market for color or fragrance, disease resistant roses have a lot to offer. The garden still looks nice, so for those who missed the past two weekends, there’s still plenty of time to catch the tail end of our peak bloom.